In 2011, for the first time in decades, the amount the nation’s schools spent per student fell. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest release on education spending, the nation’s schools spent $10,560 per student in 2011, down from $10,600 per student in 2010. In most states, however, spending increased.
Based on the U.S. Census Bureau’s latest release on education spending per student, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the states that spent the most and least on education. For the past seven years, New York spent more than any other state, at just over $19,000 per student. Utah spent less than a third of that.
The states that spent the most per student appear to be the ones that can best afford it. Median household income in nine of the 10 top-spending states is higher than the U.S. median.
Because schools are funded through property taxes, many of the states that spend the most on education received more money from relatively high property tax revenue. Nationally, 12% of school revenue came from the federal government, and 44% came from the state and local sources. In New Jersey, one of the states spending the most on education, more than 58% of funding came from local sources.
Generally, the states that spend the most on education get the best results. A majority of the top-spending states are in the top 15 in fourth- and eighth-grade math and reading proficiency exams. Among the 10 states that spent the least per pupil, only Colorado was in the top 10 in any of these proficiency tests.
Spending a lot on students is by no means a guarantee of success, however. New York and Alaska, the top two spenders, had mediocre scores.
High school graduation rates also are likely to be higher in the states that spend more per student. Students in these states also are much more likely to complete college. More than 30% of adults in the majority of the top-spending states had at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to the U.S rate of 28.5%. Of the 10 states that spent the least per student, eight had below-average percentages with bachelor’s degrees.
Wealth and spending on education has a significant impact on educational outcomes, according to Michael Leachman, director of state fiscal research at the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities. “If you have more money, you can invest more in your schools,” he said in an interview with 24/7 Wall St. “If you invest more in your schools, you’re going to end up with a better-educated and ultimately higher-income population.”
Based on the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 states with the school systems that spent the most and the least per student in fiscal year 2011. From the census, we reviewed a variety of data related to education spending and revenue, including the proportion of state education revenue from federal, state or local sources, and the proportion of state spending that went to teaching costs or support services, all for fiscal 2011. We also used additional census data, including income, poverty and educational attainment data, all for calendar 2011. And we reviewed state proficiency scores in 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress math and reading exams for the fourth and eighth grades, provided by Education Week.
These are the states that spend the least on education, according to 24/7 Wall St.: